Many young adults and even kids have asked me if it is worth it to go to college if they want to be a real estate agent. That is a very tricky question to answer, because the answer is different for different people. I went to college and then became a Realtor, but I did not use much of what I learned in college to sell houses. However, I am glad I went to college, because of what I learned in business. I also met a lot of great people and it helped me mature. If I had not gone to college I probably would not be as successful as I am now, but I also did not know for sure I wanted to be a real estate agent. In fact at that point in my life I knew I did not want to be a Realtor!
Why did I go to college and what did I major in?
My parents both went to college and my dad graduated with a chemistry degree. My sister who is ten years older than me went to college and eventually ended up with a doctorate in physics. It was expected that I would go to college and get a degree in something. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that I would not go to college. I was always good at math, but I was by no means a straight A student. I did not have the greatest attention span in school and I had a few embarrassing moments in class when I woke up from a day-dream realizing the teacher was repeatedly calling my name waiting for an answer to some unknown question.
Because I was good at math I thought civil engineering would be a good fit for me. I ended up being accepted to the University of Colorado in civil engineering and thoroughly hated it as soon as I started. I realized when I was in engineering school that I was really good at basic math and numbers, but I was not good at high level math like calculus or at least I did not have the attention span to learn it. I decided my freshman year that I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing high level math problems and transferred to business school.
I decided an emphasis in finance would be a good choice in business school, because I liked money (I really did not think things through when I was younger). Business school was a breeze after going through engineering. I took summer school to catch up after changing majors and ended up graduating in four years.
What did I learn as a business finance major?
Most of business school taught the common path to success. Get a corporate job, save your money, invest it in the stock market and retire when you are 65. If you wanted to be a cut above the rest you could work 80 hours a week, climb the corporate ladder and hope to become a CEO or high level corporate officer and make big money. The catch was you still had to work 80 hours a week even after you made it!
What I was taught in business school did not make a lot of sense, because the chances of making it big seemed so small and the rewards not that great in the corporate world. Then I took an entrepreneur class and I loved it! I was put in a group of five people and we had to do a computer simulation running a company. I took over the simulation and made all the decisions for our team as far as manufacturing, budget, marketing and basically everything. I loved it and I did not care that I was doing all the work for our team, because our team was number one in the class by a mile most of the year.
In the end we ended up being third because the simulation had a flaw. In the simulation if a company sold all of its inventory, all of its land and all of its manufacturing facilities, the stock skyrocketed. Basically a company sold all its assets, received a stockpile of cash and the stock price was suddenly worth ten times what the cash was worth even with no inventory, no manufacturing facilities and no way to make more money. I explained to the teacher (actually teacher’s assistant) why a company with no possible way to make money in the future should have stock value so high, but she did not understand. Even with the disappointment in not winning, I knew I loved running a business and I was good at it.
What did I end up doing after graduating?
After college I still did not know exactly what I wanted to do. I could not find a company that would let me be their CEO right off the bat and I did not have any ideas for starting a business. While I figured out what I should do, I moved back to my home town and worked part-time with my dad in real estate. I got my real estate license, helped him flip houses and 14 years later I am sure glad I made that choice.
I did not find success in real estate right away. In the beginning I treated it as a job and put in the hours without thinking much about what I was doing and why. When I started to think about being an agent as a business, planning my work and setting goals my career took off. Once I started to treat things as a business I started using my contacts from college and ended up hiring my college roommate as my team manager. I contacted my college and have thought about working with them and their real estate department. When I meet someone from my college it also creates an instant connection.
Although college did not directly teach me how to be a real estate agent, it helped me be successful in many ways.
- I learned a lot about business and investing
- I learned how little I wanted to be in the corporate world
- I met a lot of very smart people and made many lifelong connections
- I matured a lot before I started my career
- As an alumni I have more contacts and better ability to network with others
Is it worth it?
Going to college or not is a huge life decision and one I cannot make for you. In order to make a decision like this please write out all your options, pros, cons and the costs. It will make it much easier to make the decision when everything is written out and you can see the benefits and down falls. Here are things to consider:
- Do you love real estate and do you have any experience in it? If you have never been in the industry or around a real estate office you may not like it. Not everyone is cut out to be a real estate agent and some people may enjoy the corporate world or something else much more.
- How much will each option cost? College is very expensive. I was lucky because my parents helped me pay for school and I went to an in-state college with lower tuition. Tuition was also much less 15 years ago than it is today. Real estate school is much cheaper and in most cases much faster to complete.
- What are the licensing requirements in your state? Some states require a college degree and some are considering making it a requirement. Check what the requirements are in your state before you make a decision. Here is a great starting point.
- What type of real estate agent do you want to be? If you want to be a residential Realtor, college will not help you get a job. But if you want to be a commercial agent, a college degree will help you get a real estate job and be much more beneficial.
- How mature are you? This is a hard thing to assess on yourself. We all think we are mature beyond our age, but most of us are delusional when we are young. Ask your parents, ask your family, ask your friends and anyone else to honestly asses how mature you are and if you are ready to start a career or not. If you are not ready to take a career serious, but you start anyway there is a good chance you will not have much success. You might end up blaming the lack of success on the career and not yourself. College may be a good thing for those that need more time (I did).
After you have answered these questions you may or may not start to get a clear idea of what is best for your situation. If you still do not know what to do, there is another option.
Can you go to college and start a real estate career?
You don’t have to pick being a real estate agent now or going to college and being one in four years. You can choose a hybrid option that may be the best choice for most people. Many colleges have a real estate program or at least some real estate classes. You can enroll in college, choose real estate as a minor (it is usually not a major option) or at least take real estate classes for your electives. I would suggest something business related as a major, because the accounting, economics and entrepreneurial classes will be huge benefits to any career.
Besides taking real estate classes you could also start looking for internships or part-time jobs immediately. Look for real estate offices who may need front desk help or any kind of help. Start learning the business from people in the business. This is also a great opportunity to see if you like the business. If you find the right company they might help you get your license and you may even decide you don’t need your degree. Or you might work all through college earning extra money and gaining experience. You might also realize you hate real estate and you had better go to college to get a degree for another line of work.
There is no right answer when it comes to going to college and real estate. I am glad I went to college, but I also did not know what I wanted to do after high school. If you know you want to be an agent and nothing else, maybe you don’t need college. Maybe you can spend a year getting your license and working in a real estate office to make sure it is the right career for you. If it is the right career you just saved a lot of money and time! If you aren’t sure about real estate or want the college experience try the hybrid approach and get as involved as you can in real estate while going to school. Either way, you will have to work hard and smart to be successful.